Copley Square, Boston, MA | CruiseBe
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Copley Square

History and museums
square, historic site, sightseeing

Copley Square, named for painter John Singleton Copley, is a public square in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, bounded by Boylston Street, Clarendon Street, St. James Avenue, and Dartmouth Street.


The Square has a number and variety of important architectural works that have been built there, many of them official landmarks. Prominent structures still standing include:

  • Old South Church (1873), by Charles Amos Cummings and Willard T. Sears in the Venetian Gothic Revival style.
  • Trinity Church (1877, Romanesque Revival), considered H. H. Richardson's tour de force.
  • Boston Public Library (1895), by Charles Follen McKim in a revival of Italian Renaissance style, incorporates artworks by John Singer Sargent, Edwin Austin Abbey, Daniel Chester French, and others.
  • The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel (1912) by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh in the Beaux-Arts style (on the site of the original Museum of Fine Arts).
  • The John Hancock Tower (1976, late Modernist) by Henry N. Cobb, at 790 feet (241 m) New England's tallest building.
  • The Bostix Kiosk (1992, Postmodernist), at the corner of Dartmouth and Boylston streets, by Graham Gund with inspiration from Parisian park pavilions.

Among buildings no longer standing are:

  • Chauncy Hall School (c. 1874, demolished 1908), a tall-gabled High Victorian brick school building on Boylston St. near Dartmouth St.
  • Museum of Fine Arts (1876, demolished 1910) by John Hubbard Sturgis and Charles Brigham in the Gothic Revival style, was the first purpose-built public art museum in the world.
  • S.S. Pierce Building, (1887, demolished 1958) by S. Edwin Tobey, "no masterpiece of architecture, but great urban design. A heap of dark Romanesque masonry..."
  • Hotel Westminster, Trinity Place, by Henry E. Cregier of Chicago in 1897. Now the northeast corner of the new John Hancock Building.


A remarkable number of important Boston educational and cultural institutions were originally located adjacent to (or very near) Copley Square, reflecting 19th-century Boston's aspirations for it as a center of culture and progress. These include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School, the New England Museum of Natural History (today's Museum of Science), Trinity Church, the New Old South Church, the Boston Public Library, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Massachusetts Normal Art School (today's Massachusetts College of Art), the Horace Mann School for the Deaf, Boston University, Emerson College and Northeastern University.

Known as Art Square until 1883, Copley Square was originally cut diagonally by Huntington Avenue; it took its present form in 1966 when Huntington Avenue was truncated at the corner of Dartmouth Street, the Square partially paved, and a pyramidal fountain sculpture added. In 1991, after further changes including a new fountain, the new Copley Square Park was dedicated. The nonprofit Friends of Copley Square raises funds for care of the square's plantings, fountain, and monuments.

The Boston Marathon has finished at Copley Square since 1986. A memorial celebrating the race's 100th running (in 1996) is located in the park, near the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets.

2013 Boston Marathon bombings

On April 15, 2013, around 2:50 p.m. (about three hours after the first runners crossed the line) two bombs exploded—​​one near the finish line near the Boston Public Library, the other some seconds later and one block west. Three people were killed and at least 183 injured, at least 14 of whom lost limbs.

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